It’s been really hard for Iran hawks these days. With a reformist Iranian president initiating unprecedented diplomacy with the U.S. and offering major concessions on its nuclear program, the best they’ve been able to come up with is that it’s all a sham. Rouhani is “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists. He may seem nice on the outside, but he is really evil. This diplomatic push to resolve longstanding disputes with the West is all a ploy so they can build a nuclear bomb and destroy Israel.
At the Daily Beast, Eli Lake introduces another iteration of this knee-jerk opposition to diplomacy with Iran. His argument is that the Iranians have gotten better at doing things in secret, so if they try to build a bomb, we’ll have a harder time detecting it.
…the Iranians have gotten better at hiding their tracks, according to some current and retired United States intelligence officers who say it could prove very difficult for the world to catch Iran again if it tries to build a nuclear weapon in secret.
Since 2009, when the second uranium enrichment facility was revealed in Qom, Iran has taken several steps to better conceal a weapons program, these people say. It has beefed up security of its cyber networks, for example, after the Stuxnet computer worm infected computers in Iran’s largest uranium enrichment site. Its Revolutionary Guard has also established a cyber warfare command. The division’s commander died mysteriously earlier this month.
Iran has also improved security procedures for protecting personnel in its nuclear program, following a string of attacks on its scientists, allegedly by Israel.
That’s his lede. Not exactly a block-buster gotcha on Iran’s nuclear program.
There is a different way to describe Lake’s opening paragraphs. It would go something like this: “In response to repeated U.S. efforts at espionage, Iran has tried to impede American spying efforts.” Or, “In response to a cyberwarfare attack by the U.S. widely considered to be illegal, Iran has tried to beef up the security of its cyber networks.” Or, “In response to repeated terrorist attacks against Iranian scientists, Iran has tried to improve protection of these personnel.”
Here’s the next of Lake’s ominous warnings:
Finally, as Iran’s declared uranium enrichment facilities in Natanz and Qom have expanded, so has the country’s infrastructure for building centrifuges, the machines that enrich that uranium. The current and former U.S. intelligence officials say this means it’s easier for Iran to siphon off material for secret facilities with more nefarious purposes, if it chose to do so.
What Lake chose not to include in his report is that Iran has been irreversibly diverting much of its enriched uranium to peaceful scientific research and medical isotopes, according to the IAEA, a UN report, and even Israeli intelligence officials.
And despite what Lake reports about the difficulty of detecting a secret Iranian program, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress back in March that “Iran could not divert safeguarded material and produce a weapon-worth of WGU [weapons grade uranium] before this activity is discovered.”
Lake also ignores the deal Iranians have offered in nuclear negotiations. According to reporter Barbara Slavin, Iran “has put forward a new proposal to resolve the nuclear crisis that includes a freeze on production of 20% enriched uranium” and “a pledge to convert its stockpile to fuel rods.”
In addition, the Iranians have proposed “full monitoring of the underground enrichment plant at Fordow,” the enrichment site that worries people like Lake so much, and “ratification of the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which allows unannounced inspections of nuclear sites.”
With current U.S. spying capabilities, plus Iranian concessions which include greater transparency, Lake’s contention that the Islamic Republic might build a bomb without detection if they decided to do so is…well…ridiculous.